Book Review: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami and A One Thousand Leaves Cake


If you've tasted, or at least seen a one thousand leaves cake, then you can get a picture of what The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle book is like, with only one difference. To start with, both have a thousand layers, one on top of the other and endlessly going on. The difference is that when tasting the cake, you take a bite and savor its layers; whereas, in the book, you might read it one time and get a sense of the layers of stories created by the writer, but once you go for it a second time, you realize how little you really understood on that first round! That's why I not only read this book but later listened to it, in order to feel I was ready to share my opinion which is: If you like scrumptious thousand leaves cakes, you should definitely try this one! And if you'd like whipped cream on top, then accompany your reading with one of Spotify's playlists based on the songs mentioned in the book (more info coming).

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami is a sci-fi fiction novel, originally published in Japan in three parts, and later compiled into a single volume for the English translation. If you're thinking of reading it, I totally recommend you first locate a playlist from Spotify including most of the music mentioned in the book. Here's the one I listened to, but there are plenty of playlists to choose from, just search the name of the book. Believe me, when in the book a character is cooking or at the dry-cleaner's, and at the same time, you're listening to the music the character is whistling or says it's playing, you are there too!

I wish I'd all the time in the world to keep exploring this book. For example, to study the opera The Thieving Magpie by Rossini to understand why Murakami chose its overture to begin the novel. Or to analyze all the references you can find in his first two books, Hear The Wind Sing and Pin Ball. In those, you can find business cards, wells, a character cooking spaghetti, cats, music, pencils, cigarettes, beer, whisky, a telephone ringing, the cleaners, hearts, a bird outside a window, and number 208. I think it's fascinating! I'll probably come back to all of this once I've explored other novels.

The funny thing is I found this book by accident. Actually, a mistake I made. I had finished reading What I Talked About When I Talk About Running and, in it, he mentions how he ended up writing his first book. So I decided I wanted to read that first book. I remembered it had "wind" on the title and sure of myself bought The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle thinking this was it (beautiful edition from Vintage Classics). Oh, surprise! The books have 15 years in-between! Anyway, I read it, then read his first two novels as I listened to (instead of rereading) The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle another time.

Let's move on to the themes, literary devices, and one character. In my opinion, there's a rainbow of topics throughout the novel. Murakami explores loneliness, isolation, and passiveness; identity, suicide, marriage, loyalty, infidelity, and secrets alongside. There's also the motifs: baseball bat (blew my mind during the second read), well, wind-up bird, and telephone.  About literary devices, his mastery of imagery blows my mind! I have two favorite descriptions. One, the skinner. Two, fight with the musician. Last, but not least, a character that I wish I'd have learned more about, Cinnamon. Might he be autistic? For example, I found the ironing shirt ritual quite clear on the subject. There's also his routines and habits. The way he understands the world. All very interesting to me.

Finally, I do understand Murakami is not for everyone. If you're thinking of reading him, maybe start with a shorter one? This one is a big enterprise: my book copy has 607 pages and the audio-book is 26 hours long. And if you've read it, what do you recommend reading next?


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